Filmmaker to Rebel
A Review of Alejandro Montoya Marin’s Involvement with El Rey’s Rebel Without a Crew
For a budding Austin filmmaker in the 90s, El Mariachi was an inspiration. Robert Rodriquez was able to create an artistic action film his own way without major studio help. At that moment, filmmaking became a tangible dream for many. Fast forward several years, Rodriquez and his debut experience is making its mark on another generation of filmmakers.
This past spring, Rodriquez produced a reality show along with his network El Rey titled Rebel Without a Crew: The Series, a docu-series chronicling filmmakers as they produce feature films using similar challenges Rodriquez faced with El Mariachi; limited budget and time. I had the pleasure to chat with one of the filmmakers, Alejandro Montoya Marin about his overall experience.
Montoya Marin is not new to filmmaking, and has an impressive resume of projects. Equipped with multi-national experiences, from his youth in both Texas and Mexico to his film education in Canada, Montoya Marin’s unique world view comes through in his work. Even with this established background, the pressure of the series didn’t escape this Latino filmmaker’s psyche.
“There was a whole lot of pressure. Not only do you have the man (Rodriquez) who revamped indie filmmaking, but you have the first Latino filmmaker I looked up to,” Montoya Marin says. “He knocked it out of the park with El Mariachi, so it was my duty to not let him down.”
Montoya Marin rose to the occasion, producing the highly enjoyable film Monday. In this film, Jim (Jaime H. Jung) faces continued bombardment of obstructions that begin to deteriorate his life, and all of this has happened on one glorious Monday.
In its original form, Monday was a short Montoya Marin already had in his arsenal, and was a significant starting point for the feature needed for the show. Expanding the short did present challenges, like smoothing out the tone to keep the audience entertained throughout. This ended up being Montoya Marin’s main priority, and he had a creative way to utilize his surroundings in the jump from short to feature.
“I didn't know what the location situation was, so I wrote to specific locations I knew we could getin a city like Austin,” Montoya Marin explains.
Did you catch that? Rebel Without A Crew wasn’t just a documentary about filmmaking, but about producing those films with a range of challenges beside the budget limitations. These “competition style” modifications included incorporation of a prop from Troublemaker films, limited casting time, and unseen locations. Restrictions like these can be a hinderances, but in the creative world they can sometimes become a blessing.
“I liked the fact that you HAD to think on the fly and that you had to rely on improvisational tactics and gut instincts,” Montoya Marin adds.
Gut instincts in filmmaking are valuable tools, particularly when something as uncompromising as budget comes into play. The 7K budget mimicked the budget of El Mariachi. For a seasoned filmmaker like Montoya Marin, this challenge meant he was more focus on how to distribution the money in the most effective way.
“I saved as much of the budget as possible for post-production and the soundtrack. We needed to have a perfect soundtrack that made the movie flow and feel hectic.” Montoya Marin explains. “Thanks to Charles Newman and Motherwest, as well as the amazing bands that gave us their music for practically nothing, we did”
These hyper-focused filmmaker tactics paid off with well-toned finished product. Monday never losing momentum from the moment the film starts. The even distribution of tension and humor is the best aspect of the film. There were also several moments of truly creative cinematography, an example of the passion Montoya Marin felt for both the film and the filmmaking process.
That artistry might also be a testament to the collaborative portions of the show. An ever-present element throughout Rebel Without A Crew was access to the Troublemaker family, industry heavy-weights in a plethora of production fields. This is priceless knowledge, and Montoya Marin was grateful for the experience.
“To have Steve (Joyner) and Nina (Proctor) help us with our vision, lending their knowledge and time was amazing. I knew of them and their work, I was geeking out,” Montoya Marin says.
All of these limitations and opportunities happened in the backdrop of Austin, in and of itself a creative city. Art seems to drip from all corners of the city, and is not limited to professionals. The creative juices of the city seeped into the community of the show. Montoya Marin had yet to work in Austin, but added an interesting element to the whole experience.
“People in Austin were supportive, energetic, enthusiastic and trusting. They had never heard of me but were super trusting. I was lucky to have had the people that were involved in Monday. I couldn't be happier with the outcome. ” Montoya Marin says.
The show isn’t just about mimicking a respected film, but instead is about using the progress Rodriquez made with his first film and continue it on to the next generation of filmmakers. Above it all, Montoya Marin’s experience on Rebel Without A Crew has only helped strengthen his resolve as a filmmaker.
“This show is about going for it and made me open my eyes. I's a good thing to have a little fear, but you can't let it control you completely. You have to be a rebel,” Montoya Marin explains. “Don't worry what others are doing; do you, have fun and enjoy.We get one life and I'm doing movies. Listen, laugh, concentrate, write, film and repeat.”
If you missed the show, audiences will be able to stream Rebel Without A Crew and Monday (also on VOD) starting in November. As for Montoya Marin, Monday is making the festival rounds stateside and abroad, bringing this film to enthusiasts around the world. The future is open for Montoya Marin, and with the valuable experience of the show, anything is possible for this next generation indie filmmaker.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Gidget PR